How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Can Help You
One of the overwhelming aspects of starting to go to therapy is figuring out what type of therapy will be a good fit for you. Everyone is different, so not everyone responds to the same treatment methods or approaches. To help support the mental health of as many people as possible, new therapy modalities are developed and studied, increasing the options folks have when beginning the therapy journey.
There are many different therapy modalities out there. Some require additional training or certification. Many therapists work with a blend of modalities so they can tailor the therapy experience to each individual.
Some of the common modalities you might hear of when researching therapy and therapists are Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), to name a few. In this post, we’ll examine Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to give you an idea of how this modality works.
How does ACT help?
Some therapy modalities, like CBT, strive to reduce the number of unpleasant thoughts and feelings you experience. ACT, on the other hand, was developed to help you stop the struggle to control those thoughts and feelings so you can live a life that’s aligned with what’s important to you.
Life is always going to have ups and downs and be a complicated experience. ACT aims to teach you how to be compassionate to yourself in the times when life is hard instead of trying to change the experience. As such, acceptance is a big piece of the puzzle of ACT.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy also focuses on identifying and understanding your personal values so you can live in a way that’s more in line with what matters to you. If you’ve never consciously thought about what your values are as an adult, ACT can help you determine which values are important to you.
Cognitive defusion is an important technique that is taught in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Cognitive defusion allows you to separate your sense of self from your thoughts and feelings. You are not your thoughts and feelings, but often it feels like that’s not the case. Reminding yourself that you are not your thoughts and feelings makes them feel less personal and reduces the urge to fixate on them.
Mindfulness is an important part of ACT. Mindfulness is about keeping us focused on the present moment, which is helpful when it comes to acceptance. It’s easier to avoid certain feelings or thoughts when you’re not present or when you’re distracting yourself.
Mindfulness teaches you to notice what is happening in and around you at the present moment so you can better tune in with what’s going on. Mindfulness also teaches you to be compassionate and nonjudgmental toward your thoughts and feelings, which helps with acceptance.
What does acceptance mean?
Acceptance doesn’t have to mean that you agree with or approve of what is happening. Acceptance is powerful because it helps prevent you from distressing over what you cannot change. It is painful to spend our precious time and energy resisting things that we have no control over. Acceptance allows you to take a step back from that resistance and distress and it allows you to move forward.
For example, let’s say it’s raining outside, and you have somewhere important to be. It might be really frustrating to you that the weather isn’t cooperating with your plans and you have to travel in the rain. It might make you feel angry or like everything is always against you. You might even spend the whole day irritated or on edge afterward. It’s easy to get swept up in the negative thoughts that come up when we’re frustrated or upset, but that doesn’t mean that those thoughts are accurate.
If, however, you notice that it’s raining outside, and say to yourself, “Hmm, it’s raining outside. That’s kind of annoying, but it is what it is,” that may feel a little less personal. The weather isn’t about you. You can’t do anything to change it. Spending time being irritated about the weather that you can’t change only upsets you when you struggle to accept it.
You don’t have to be happy about something to accept it. Acceptance just means that you are no longer struggling against what is, and thus you can move forward.
Who does ACT help?
ACT teaches you psychological flexibility, which you can use in the future when going through life’s ups and downs. The techniques taught in ACT, like acceptance and mindfulness, can help you feel more resilient in the ACT could be a good fit for you if you’d like an action-oriented approach to therapy. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy helps teach you how to move from avoidance and denial of emotions to acceptance and understanding.
ACT can help treat a number of mental health disorders, such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive disorder
- Eating disorders
- Substance use
How can you get started with ACT?
If you’d like to get started with therapy from an ACT perspective, our clinicians at Holistic Consultation can help.